In-depth Q&A: How will the UK’s hydrogen strategy help achieve net-zero?

Hydrogen will be “vital” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and might fulfill up to a 3rd of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the government.

The UKs brand-new, long-awaited hydrogen strategy supplies more information on how the government will support the advancement of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is virtually non-existent.

On the other hand, firm choices around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page method and analyzes a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Specialists have warned that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK needs to prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capability expands.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective usage in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation strategies launched previously this year.

Its versatility indicates it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently suffers from high rates and low effectiveness..

The plan likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen area heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower dependence on gas.

However, as the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments strategies pertain to fulfillment it could then broaden significantly– making up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and vehicle stock modifications.

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have cautioned that the UK threats being left behind. Other European countries have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the sixth carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the complete range is based upon the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as an important part in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has been the subject of substantial hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

The document contains an expedition of how the UK will expand production and develop a market for hydrogen based upon domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has been aiming to import hydrogen from abroad.

In some applications, hydrogen will take on electrification and carbon capture and storage (CCS) as the finest methods of decarbonisation.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of demands, specifying that the federal government must “broaden beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

Hydrogen development for the next years is expected to start slowly, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the method.

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the strategy is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its newest advice, however covers a similar variety to other research studies.

Today we have published the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our plan to: kick-start an entire industry let loose the marketplace to cut expenses ramp up domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of private capital support 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

As with many of the federal governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

Prior to the brand-new method, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at virtually no.

In its brand-new technique, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as an essential part of its net-zero plan, and states it desires the country to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

The method does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “familiar with a possible pipeline of over 15GW of jobs”.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The former is essentially zero-carbon, but the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure and the fact that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not record 100% of emissions..

In the example selected for the assessment, natural gas routes where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were left out..

At the heart of lots of conversations about low-carbon hydrogen production is whether the hydrogen is “green” or “blue”.

In May, S&P Global Platts reported that Rita Wadey– hydrogen economy deputy director at the Department for Business, Energy & & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)– said that, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the primary element in market development”.

The new method largely prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the federal government has devoted to a “twin track” approach that will consist of the production of both varieties.

It has also launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which examines maximum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the approach for determining these emissions.

Many researchers and ecological groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and then present the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side considerations are total.”.

The strategy keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, storage and capture] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

The federal government has actually released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the technique, with a promise to “settle design components” of such standards by early 2022.

Brief (hopefully) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.

Supporting a variety of tasks will provide the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has stated it will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

The CCC has actually warned that policies must establish both blue and green options, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

The CCC has previously specified “suitable emissions decreases” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “at least 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas cost savings”.

The strategy mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, informs Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “most likely a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the blue vs green hydrogen argument”. He states:.

Comparison of rate quotes throughout different innovation types at central fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

The CCC has formerly stated that the government should “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different paths to 2035” in its hydrogen technique.

This opposition capped when a recent study caused headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called the worldwide warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen expenses launched alongside the main method, shows the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by renewable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and kept..

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most affordable low-carbon hydrogen available, according to federal government analysis consisted of in the technique. (For more on the relative expenses of different hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the government should “live to the risk of gas industry lobbying causing it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity understood as … Read More.

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for achieving net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen readily available..

The document does not do that and rather states it will offer “further detail on our production method and twin track method by early 2022”.

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the effect of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production techniques above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

However, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on very high methane leak and a short-term measure of worldwide warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.


How will hydrogen be utilized in various sectors of the economy?

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments focus on electric automobiles, which numerous researchers view as more economical and effective technology.

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage ought to be restricted to “areas less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry” and providing flexibility to the power system.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling automobiles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced.

” Stronger signals of intent could steer public and private financial investments into those locations which add most worth. The government has actually not plainly set out how to choose upon which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be determined through trials and pilots.”.

Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, suggests potential hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with current applications– such as the chemicals market– offered top concern.

The technique also consists of the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps..

Protection of the report and government promotional products emphasised that the federal governments strategy would supply sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

The starting point for the range– 0TWh– recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses.

The federal government is more optimistic about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below shows.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the government to choose its priorities thoroughly.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had “exposed” the door for usages that “dont include the most worth for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

In the real report, the government stated that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all use cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. The brand-new method is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy goods automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Dedications made in the new method include:. " As the technique confesses, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we need to use it where there are couple of alternatives and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. It consists of plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently available ... those must be the focus.". Much will hinge on the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures technique might also offer some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine blending as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last decision in late 2023. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for companies aiming to get in the sector. The new hydrogen technique validates that this company model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced along with the primary technique. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year"." As the technique admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-term security to the industry would be "really little" for individual families. The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen organization model to encourage private investment and a profits mechanism to provide funding for the service design. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies might play in attaining the levels of production necessary to fulfill our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". Now that its method has been published, the government states it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. According to the governments press release, its favored model is "built on a comparable facility to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher bills or public funds. These contracts are designed to conquer the cost space in between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this space.